CO doctors shy away from Medicare patients

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Only one third of doctors in Colorado will accept a new patient on basic Medicare, with no limitations, according to a study by Colorado Public News.

Robert Tooke, 60, says his endocrinologist dropped him because he stopped accepting Medicare patients. Some doctors say Medicare pays about 50 percent less than other insurance plans, making it harder to afford medicare patients.

"That's a real hard way to make money and pay our staff and pay our rent," says Dr. Jonathan Zonca, of the Ascent Family Medicine Center in Denver.

"When you're unlucky enough to get dropped after almost 15 years on the patient roll, you do the best you can," says Tooke.

Some doctors are reluctant to take on new Medicare patients because they tend to have more complex medical issues and may need extensive follow ups that aren't covered.

A Medicare spokesman noted that threats in Washington to slash Medicare funding are leading more doctors to turn patients away. Experts recommend that patients not wait until they are sick to find a primary care doctor.

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